The topic of culling kangaroos - or any animal for that matter, is something that has always been on my mind ever since I attended university and took a course called 'Rethinking Wildlife'.
'Rethinking Wildlife' is a wonderful subject at UNSW that allows students to investigate issues regarding wildlife, and to present a report on their findings. When I was a student I did a report on culling invasive animals, and this time I was lucky enough to be interviewed for a current student's paper on culling kangaroos.
I have attached the an excerpt from the transcript below.
Do you think humans have the right to cull another species such as the kangaroo?
In short, no. Humans have asserted themselves as the dominant species for centuries. And whilst most humans would argue that we are at the top of the food chain, I believe that every species has a right to inhabit this planet - we should not control who we think should or shouldn't be here. Furthermore, culling is not only unethical, its effectiveness in managing populations is questionable.
Breaking it down:
culling = less species = more food for those left --> hence they will reproduce more and numbers will bounce back.
What do kangaroos represent to you? E.g a national icon, individual animals with own rights, a pest species, a resource?
I see kangaroos as beautiful and gentle creatures; we are blessed to share this country with them. They are smart and like no other animal on this planet. They can jump 7.62m in one stride; and that's just one of the incredible things about them.
After doing field work in the outback, however, I have realised that kangaroos are most often perceived as pests and a danger on the roads. There is also the view that kangaroos are too abundant in numbers.
I think it's important to realise that the way in which we come up with their population data is inaccurate as it's impossible to take a sample from one area and apply it to the rest; kangaroos are not equally distributed. Secondly, I question how we can say that there is 'too much' of one species when we look at our own population, and the environmental devastation that we cause. Furthermore, whilst I agree that it is unsafe for those driving to hit a kangaroo, I don't think that shooting all of them is going to solve the problem.
According to one of my work mates, the reasons kangaroos are so 'abundant' in these areas is because of the man-made water holes that were made for livestock. Water is now available in places that they weren't before. I can see that this could lead to problems. But what are these problems exactly? Do kangaroos even have the same diet as livestock?
In the case of the shark cull many members of the public view the issue as humans invading the sharks territory in this case, who do you think is invading who’s territory?
Yes it's an interesting point - kangaroos were here before us weren't they, so it is actually us who are invading their land. We need to remember this.
What kind of rights should be given to kangaroos? Should these rights be different for non -native species?
I don't see why we must discriminate animals because of their native/non-native status. For me it's like discriminating between refugees and people who are born in Australia. We are all a species on this planet, who is to say one is more important than another?
Do you think there are any alternatives ways humans can co-exist with kangaroos? / any alternatives to the culling? Such as infertility technology?
Kangaroos are slow breeders already - they only have one child per cycle, just like humans; and they live for approx 12 years. I don't see the need for infertility treatment. In fact I don't see the need to manage kangaroo populations at all. What I think we do need to do, is start thinking about why we have this problem and what we can do to solve it.
The problem of course, all stems from settlement. We came here, bringing a number of species with us to eat that were never meant for this land. Cows - sheep etc. We even brought over foxes, rabbits, cats. I'm sure you've studied about all of the environmental consequences that have arisen as a result.. And so now, we ask 'how can we control the kangaroo'? When what we should be asking is... how can we change our diet - how can we change our system to something that was always meant to be natural in Australia? Something that is sustainable, ethical, and uses the resources that are actually here?
Some people say that we should eat kangaroo meat as the Aborigines did. According to them, this is more 'sustainable'. However, kangaroos are wild animals - when they aren't put through the same farming process (they just can't be - they wouldn't survive); they don't get de-wormed or screened for any health problems. So we don't know what we are eating. Furthermore, we can't go around eating all the animals that were originally here instead of cows, such as koalas and echidnas. There are rules that protect them (and I can't imagine the average Australian would be happy doing this.)
There are a lot of goats in the wild, so if one must eat meat then goat meat would be a more sustainable option. Thousands of goats are rounded up in the outback and exported overseas. I don't think many Australians know this ! In my opinion, however, what we should really be doing is thinking about how we can use our land to grow food in a more sustainable/natural way that will eliminate all of these problems. And that would be by growing crops and vegetables. Animal agriculture is not only unethical, one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gases, deforestation and global warming, it is also a huge resource consumer. Think about the amount of crops that we grow to feed these cows, so we can eat them. What if we just ate the crops instead?
We cannot continue to survive on this planet if we continue to eat meat in the quantity that we do. The dairy industry is just as bad, if not worse. All of this - native/non native - culling - debate - it's all linked to agriculture. How we can continue to justify killing other species to support an industry that is so clearly detrimental in every way - to our health, the environment, and our moral conscious as a society is obscene.
Do you think more studies need to be done to determine the impacts of kangaroos on farming? Or is it irrelevant to how kangaroos should be ‘managed’ / treated
Yes ! Definitely. Luckily there has been some investigation and a documentary called 'kangaroo' is coming out soon. I'd recommend having a look and getting in touch with the film makers if you are curious for more information. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6674514/
I'm not naive enough to believe that Australians will change the way in which kangaroos or any other species are treated surrounding agriculture without some sort of viable study or law that is implemented. The more study and knowledge surrounding the area, the better.
IMAGE BELOW: A Kangaroo limb - not a rare site working in the outback.